Squatting and Common Land in Hackney

Squattingunlawfully occupy an uninhabited building or settle on a piece of land” OED

Not far from the news at any time over the last couple of years with Occupy and Dale Farm the most prominent, squatting has played a pivotal role in the cultural milieu of Hackney and other London boroughs.  Ownership of buildings and land is often contested, but these days’ squatting is as much about surviving in austere Britain as it is about repealing property law.

Squatting may seem to be a post war phenomenon but there’s evidence of squatting in the area that is now defined as Hackney, as far back as the Middle Ages. The use of London Fields as collective pasture was frequently being disputed.  However, this neighbourhood rose to notoriety when it became a “squatters paradise” in the 1990s.

What has encouraged the rise in squatting today – what are the political, economic and legislative currents that encouraged this, and what is the impact of squatting not just in its immediate locale, but also across our collective culture?  Who should care if it is on the increase?

All this and much more will be revealed on Melissa BlissSquatting and the Common Land walk, the second in this summer’s series of Wednesday After Work Walks produced by Andrew Stuck’s Museum of Walking, part of Rethinking Cities.

Melissa Bliss is an artist and long-time Hackney resident. Her work is often created through

Melissa Bliss comparing images

participatory processes in live interactions, audience participation, conversations and collaborations.

Join Melissa and Andrew to explore the social history of squatting in Hackney, its impact on the area, and what can still be seen of it today.  The 90 – 120 minute walk begins outside the Hackney Museum on Reading Lane E8 1DQ at 6.15pm on Wednesday 4 July 2012.  Places are limited and on-line booking is essential – there is a modest charge of £12 per person, but if you bring a friend both you and they qualify for a £2 cash discount on the day.  Participants will receive their own field journal to record their findings.

This article first appeared on the Rethinking Cities website